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Two high-profile Martin Luther King Jr. Day events go virtual in Charleston and Colombia this year as a wave of COVID-19 infections from the omicron variant sweeps across South Carolina.

Columbia’s flagship event – King Day at the Dome, held at SC Statehouse – will be held virtually for the second year in a row, the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP confirmed to The Post and Courier on Monday.

More than 2,500 people gathered on the grounds of Statehouse on the latest King Day in-person at the Dome in 2020, which featured appearances from leading Democratic presidential candidates.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted organizers to host the rally virtually the following year for the first time in the event’s 21-year history.

The annual gathering began in 2000 as a reaction to the Confederate flag fluttering atop the dome of the Capitol. In the years that followed, King Day at the Dome helped promote a 15-year tourist boycott of the state until the flag was fully withdrawn after lawmakers reached a compromise placing the flag in one spot. prominently on Statehouse grounds.

In the years since the boycott ended, the event became known primarily not only as a tribute to King and his work, but as a critical outreach opportunity for national politicians to black voters in the South. In 2020, eight Democratic presidential candidates spoke at the event or appeared at the previous church service, traditionally held at the nearby Zion Baptist Church.

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This year’s event will take place on January 17, starting at 10 a.m. The keynote speaker will be Leon Russell, Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP. Further details will be released closer to the date of the event, NAACP officials said.

The Charleston Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade was also held as a virtual event. The YWCA Charleston, organizer of the parade, filmed the parade route starting at the Citadel and circulating through Hampton Park on December 18.

The show will air on WCBD Channel 2 at noon on January 17.

“We would like to thank the City of Charleston and the WCBD for helping us recreate a parade and honor Dr. King even in these uncertain times,” said LaVanda Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Charleston YWCA.

To kick off the year, Charleston’s annual Emancipation Proclamation Parade was held in person on New Years Day, drawing crowds downtown. The 2022 event marked the 156th year the parade has been held. It took place virtually last year due to COVID-19.

To reach Emma Whalen at 843-708-5837. Follow her on Twitter @_emma_whalen.